What does a productive manager look like?
Every company (heck, every team) has a slightly different answer to that question. Some measure a manager's productivity by their team's ability to meet deadlines, while others are focused on revenue from the projects a manager's team is working on.
True productivity for any manager requires a mix of the right systems, the right goals, and the right schedule.
A Manager is Not an Individual Contributor
Transitioning to full-time management is tricky. Getting promoted to a managerial position often means you're in a brand new role, one that requires a skillset your prior role didn't necessarily prepare you to take on. All of a sudden, your entire job is to help someone else achieve their goals.
Contrary to popular belief, a manager's job is not figuring out how to do the work for their team. A manager's responsibilities are to connect with individual contributors on their team, direct those teammates by telling them where the organization is going and why, clear any obstacles in their way, and give feedback to help them improve. Taken together, the goal is to get better outcomes from a group of individuals working together by enabling individuals to figure out the right how for them and their unique set of skills and abilities.
If you've spent your entire career figuring out the "how," giving that up to focus on team alignment can feel uncomfortable. The first step to improving productivity as a new manager is to recognize that discomfort, understand where it's coming from, and remember that your job is to help others achieve goals — not achieve them yourself.
If you're feeling unproductive, take a critical look at your workload and discuss it with your boss. Is your day spent on tasks that distract from your core role of people management? In a perfect world, managers would spend the vast majority of their time coaching, directing, mentoring, and giving feedback. While it's sometimes necessary to take on non-coaching tasks to help out your team, doing too many projects yourself will split your focus and therefore reduce your productivity. No productivity "hack" will solve a focus issue — those are helpful, but only after your focus is appropriately balanced.
Measure the Team's Entire Output
Coaching is a wholly different skillset and requires a different set of goals. Your work isn't about you, it's about the people you're supporting. Your success is measured by the entire team, not by one person's performance.
According to Andy Grove in High Output Management, a coach's output is equal to the output of their team and the output of neighboring organizations under their influence. Success looks like effective delegation, streamlined processes, and influencing direction with your unique knowledge. If decisions are delayed, projects are meddled with, or your team constantly feels frustrated, then there's room for improvement as a manager.
Remember: your highest impact work is helping others meet their goals. If everything's going smoothly on your team, that means you're doing your job well. That's your goal: a happy, well-functioning team. The metrics that measure your performance as a manager should directly relate to how well your team is functioning.
Once your focus is established and your goals are appropriate for your role, you're ready to tinker with systems and schedules to improve your productivity.
Build the Right Management Systems
Systems and processes are crucial for efficient management. Without automated systems for tracking your team, you will miss things. Sometimes, you'll miss important things. Automating aspects of people management like stand-ups/check ins and requests for feedback will help you catch small issues before they turn into big problems. A tool like Strety makes that process easy.
Your system for performance management should incorporate:
- Collaborative meeting agendas to which your team contributes asynchronously
- Customized goals with measurable success
- Automatic check ins to understand how goals are progressing, what obstacles your team is facing, and how you can help
- Feedback allowing you to praise in public and coach in private.
Schedule Your Day to Reduce Switching Costs
Do you ever feel like you need to take a walk (or maybe a nap) after a meeting before you start another task? Switching between two different tasks is difficult—especially when those tasks don't relate to each other. If you try to work on something completely different after finishing a project without taking a break, your brain will resist.
Managers who are responsible for individual contributor projects in addition to their coaching responsibilities will face switching costs all the time. People management requires a different headspace than heads-down work, and it's nearly impossible to multitask. Switching from one call to another is relatively easy, but trying to jump into a ticket escalation right after a call can feel like an uphill battle.
Pushing through switching costs might sound noble, but it isn't efficient. Instead, create a schedule that allows you to focus on one element of your job during a predetermined chunk of time.
Some ideas to try:
- Block off "meeting-free" times in your calendar to focus on your heads-down work. If you're most productive in the mornings, ask your team not to schedule meetings or interrupt you with a non-urgent issue before 11am. Time blocking can be especially helpful if you're working remotely and a colleague can't physically see that you're in the middle of something.
- Schedule all your meetings on certain days. A former colleague used to leave Mondays and Fridays completely open (no calls or meetings allowed) and met with his team Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The middle of his week was almost completely spent on Zoom, but he had two focused days a week to work on other things.
- Create themes for your days. If you're working on a few big projects, make Project A your focus on Monday, Project B your focus on Wednesday, and Project C your focus on Friday. Tuesday and Thursday can be "catchall" days to work on whatever's needed.
Over to You
If you're ready to up your leadership game with a continuous performance management system, contact Strety for a demo of our tool. We'll make it easy!